River Beat: About that “Law of the River” thing…

From today’s Deseret News, a sigh of relief for this year’s beneficent snowpack, which has has eliminated (for now) the possibility of a shortage declaration on the lower Colorado River:

If Lake Mead drops a little further, it would force a declaration of a shortage and a potential cascade of orders to cut water use. But a good winter snowpack seems to have saved the day, according to Malcolm Wilson, water resources chief of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“It is highly, highly unlikely that we’ll see a shortage declared for the lower basin,” Wilson said. “It is a good year. It’s one of the better ones we’ve seen certainly in the last decade, and we’re looking to a really good inflow.”

That’s short run. Long run? Trouble, as climate change reduces flows in the river and we set agin t’ fightin’:

Many expect hard bargaining in the future over the river’s water supply. McCool thinks there are pluses and minuses for Utah: Extended drought might wipe out proposals for Lake Powell pipelines, but Utah farmers might get rich by selling water to Las Vegas.

Can’t do that sort of thing, a Utah-Vegas transfer, under the existing river laws. But who’s to say that’s not one of the reasonable models for a recasting of the rules?